Career development

Resiliency: The New Imperative for Oil and Gas Professionals and Companies

Building resiliency along several dimensions is a modern-day imperative. Companies must develop strategies that strengthen overall business system resiliency. Likewise, individuals must enhance their personal and professional resiliency.

Problem and solution concept
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Business disruption remains at an unprecedented high due to the pandemic. It is not a new thing, and there are many other reasons for disruption aside the pandemic. Fast-changing consumer behaviors, shifts in trade policy and political winds, cyber-attacks, and downstream supplier shocks are a few of them.

Building resiliency along several dimensions is a modern-day imperative. Companies must develop strategies that strengthen overall business system resiliency. Likewise, individuals must enhance their personal and professional resiliency.

Key components of business strategy aimed at building resiliency in many businesses may include:

  • Synchronized supply chain integration, aligning supply and demand through forward-looking strategic planning
  • Leveraging data using artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, blockchain, connected devices, robotics, and advanced analytics
  • Diversification of supply partners and manufacturing partners, including more robust capacity and inventory buffers

Perhaps the most pervasive component of resiliency-building is based on the cultivation of a future-ready workforce. Having the right human capital infrastructure in place across the supply chain has been a significant challenge for many. In addition to the causes of instability and disruption noted above, maintaining (let alone growing) the required talent in many companies presents enormous challenges. Businesses that incorporate innovative approaches, try new tactics, and seek to continually deepen their understanding of their business ecosystem will be better positioned to thrive compared to their reactive, “always-done-it-this-way” brethren.

It’s not easy to ensure you have the right skills, in the right place, at the right time, as the world around you fluctuates and evolves.

If you are running a business, here are a few ideas that may help you when developing strategies and action plans to improve your workforce resiliency.

  • Actively reassign workers to their highest value use. Based on research by McKinsey & Company, companies most effectively utilize their talent when they align worker skills and capabilities to tasks most critical to creating economic value for customers, which ultimately results in better financial performance. As stated, “Fast talent reallocators were 2.2 times more likely to outperform their competitors on total returns to shareholders (TRS) than slow talent reallocators.”
  • Make purposeful use of “just-in-time” workers such contingency contractors, gig workers, freelancers, and their variants. I have seen various estimates, but all confirm that over one-third of the workforce participates in the “alternative” workforce, which has become the mainstream workforce in many ways. This trend is growing, not shrinking, and it’s increasingly an offensive, targeted strategy and not a defensive, reactive tactic.
  • Reskilling and upskilling. A 2020 report by Deloitte stated that over half of their survey respondents indicated that between half and all of their workforce will need to enhance their skills over the next 3 years. Other studies confirm this need for massive reskilling. Working side by side with robots, leveraging augmented reality technology, and working in a digitalized ecosystem all require workers to learn new skills. Moreover, creating the institutional ability to continuously learn and adapt is increasingly becoming a strategic capability. At its least, it’s a survival capability; at best, it becomes a source of competitive advantage.

Each of these approaches for employers to enhance workforce resiliency has implications for individual employees and their career development.

As employees take on more and more responsibility for self-development, understanding how skills play a key role is paramount for all workers and even more so for younger workers with many years left in their working careers. Many skills in today’s workforce are evolving or even becoming obsolete. There are also new skills emerging, particularly in technology (e.g., blockchain) but in many other areas as well.

Creating career options, opening doors, and navigating the turbulence in the market can be improved through understanding how skills can be transferred from one domain to an adjacent domain. Understanding skill adjacencies can be leveraged by employers developing recruiting strategies in scarce labor pools and by workers looking to navigate their next career move—and the one after that, and the path after that.

A Gartner report described how someone skilled in Python or TensorFlow but not Natural Language Processing (NLP) would be able to learn NLP much faster than someone without the other related skills. On the employer side, this has implications for how and when to invest in upskilling or reskilling. On the employee side, it has implications for how a worker can map out skill sets for development that lead to real opportunities in the market. While this example is taken from data science, what examples can you think of related to the energy transition? What specific skills in engineering, geosciences, or related areas can be used as springboards to adjacent skills aligned with renewables or other transition technologies?

Sue Orr, founder and president of Sherlock Resources and a recruiter and talent management consultant for more than 20 years, stated, “Employees should be proactive about planning their own career paths and career development. They shouldn’t rely on their company to have a career path designed for them. Sometimes, lateral moves make sense; career paths don’t always just involve upward movement. In early careers and for new upper-level managers, rotational positions can be very beneficial in building knowledge and skills that are useful later and contribute to flexibility and resilience. In mid-career, cross-training, taking on special projects, and joining committees are ways to expand skills and experience and to increase visibility. Look for opportunities in technology, industry, and market changes instead of viewing them as difficulties and frustrations.”

One key skill moving forward in many domains will be the ability to combine the human workforce with supporting or enabling machines. Robots will not replace nearly as many workers as some feared originally. Increasingly more experts are agreeing that the trick will be to learn how to design integrated workflows where people work side by side with robots, drones, AI bots, and other process automation technologies. This will be far more prevalent than robots completely replacing individual workers.

A company specializing in worker/machine integration is the domain expert integrator, CBT. Sean McCoy, solutions manager for worker health and safety at CBT and a long-time energy industry veteran, described the “refinery of the future” project with Texmark Chemicals to create an industrial IoT showcase that demonstrates the capabilities of best-of-breed technologies when integrated in a real-world chemical-production environment:

"CBT was able to augment the data analytics and device management capabilities of Texmark’s Connected Worker solution by integrating a second wearable device and its associated accounting software into the existing technology stack. These types of non-siloed efforts are crucial to building the infrastructure and processes needed to establish resiliency.

It is fundamental that the most valuable assets of any company, its employees, either come into the company with the skills or develop the skills alongside the business at, or faster than, the pace of change and innovation. CBT is working with universities and colleges in the Houston area to augment the traditional 2- and 4-year degrees. This work reflects an ongoing shift in the industry to recognize the need for continuing education and provide universally recognized certifications and credentialing."

In his 2021 book Paving the Way: Innovation, Talent, and the Path Forward, Tom McDonald noted that opportunities will be greatest for people who become lifelong learners and actively try to learn faster and more efficiently. Those who are teachable, coachable, and persistently work at becoming adaptive will flourish. Those who resist change, are excessively risk averse, or do not embrace new paradigms will continually be challenged.

For businesses and workers alike, resiliency is key.

[The article was sourced from the author by TWA deputy editor-in-chief Stephen Forrester.]